About The Production
Principal photography on "Space Cowboys" began in mid July, 1999, and continued through mid October, with locations in the general Los Angeles area (Saugus, Agua
Dulce, Canyon Country, March Air Force Base and Victorville) providing the background for most of the early years of the story, followed by sequences filmed at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The remainder of the film was shot on soundstages at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, which were used to house sets constructed to replicate the space shuttle interior, the Russian Ikon satellite, and a variety of aircraft (from a B-l Bomber to an early experimental jet) and in-flight simulators.
Coordinated by Academy-Award winning production designer Henry Bumstead ("The Sting," "To Kill A Mockingbird"), these sets also included the first accurate representation of Houston's new Mission Control Center, complete with large-screen high-definition communications imaging, exactly as used during actual flights.
The scenes filmed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, included training sequences in which the entire team Daedalus was put through virtually the same training phases used to prepare actual astronauts for space travel -- the shuttle simulator, the shuttle simulator control booth, the virtual reality room, and the neutral buoyancy lab.
To further enhance the credibility of the film, the "Space Cowboys" crew traveled to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in order to shoot the Vehicle Assembly Building, launch pad and landing facility for all NASA flights. Likewise, actors Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland and Gamer said goodbye to friends and family in the real astronaut blockhouse, were dressed for flight in the suit-up room used by NASA astronauts and waited for their transfer to the shuttle launch in the actual astronaut ready room.
"I wanted to make the film as believable as possible," Eastwood explains. "In order to do that we needed NASA's help to get as close as we could to the circumstances surrounding a launch. It's a complicated process and it requires careful planning and teamwork on all levels. Bringing a film crew in to simulate the whole thing was probably
an even bigger headache for NASA, but the agency really came through for us. I couldn't be more pleased with the results."
Since the film required scenes of weightlessness, the cast was put through a battery of simulation rigs. "We've done it, I suppose, in every way that it can be done," Tommy Lee Jones muses. "We've hung people from ceilings; we've had people stand around holding on to walls as if that were necessary to keep yourself from floating off; and then we have ballpoint pens and clipboards floating by suspended on filament lines; we've been on little stools that have caster wheels on them that move around. It really presents no challenge to an actor; all you have to do is stand there and take these various rides, but it's a group effort for the whole company. The other thing we've done is simply move the camera around a great deal. And sometimes using all those things in combination, one with the other, creates the illusion of weightlessness successfully maybe seventy percent of the time."
Eastwood adds: "I think we've been pretty good with it. We've used every trick possible, from where the actors are floating themselves and looking loose, or sitting on a special kind of bench that moves this way or a table gliding, or gliding across the floor."
Eastwood points out that in previous space-set films, the cast and production crew would all fly up in a giant cargo plane to achieve weightlessness for a few seconds at a stretch. "They used to call it the 'Vomit Comet,' which is an old G-3 that they would take up and get into a weightless situation and th
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